Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) are a large group of chemicals that are found in many products we use to build and maintain our homes. Once these chemicals are in our homes, they are released or “off-gas” into the indoor air we breathe. Concentrations of many VOCs are consistently higher indoors (up to ten times higher) than outdoors. VOCs are emitted by a wide array of products numbering in the thousands.
Health effects may include: eye, nose and throat irritation, headaches, loss of coordination & nausea, damage to liver, kidney and central nervous system. Some organics can cause cancer in animals, some are suspected or known to cause cancer in humans.
Particulate matter is a complex mixture of solid and/or liquid particles suspended in air. These particles can vary in size, shape and composition. EPA is especially concerned about particles that are 10 micrometers in diameter or smaller because these particles are inhalable. Once inhaled, particles can affect the heart and lungs and in some cases cause serious health effects
Scientific studies have linked PM exposure to a variety of health impacts, including: eye, nose and throat irritation; aggravation of coronary and respiratory disease symptoms; and premature death in people with heart or lung disease.
Formaldehyde is a colorless, flammable gas at room temperature and has a strong odor. Exposure to formaldehyde may cause adverse health effects. The primary way you can be exposed to formaldehyde is by breathing air containing off-gassed formaldehyde. Everyone is exposed to small amounts of formaldehyde in the air that has been off-gassed from household products, including composite wood products. It is also a byproduct of combustion and certain other natural processes, and emissions from un-vented, fuel burning appliances, like gas stoves or kerosene space heaters and cigarette smoke.
Formaldehyde can cause irritation of the skin, eyes, nose, and throat. High levels of exposure may cause some types of cancers.
At room temperature, carbon dioxide is a colorless, odorless, faintly acidic-tasting, non-flammable gas. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a byproduct of combustion, as well as a result of the metabolic process in living organisms. Because carbon dioxide is a result of human metabolism, concentrations within a building often are used to indicate whether adequate fresh air is being supplied to the space.
Moderate to high levels of carbon dioxide can cause headaches and fatigue, and higher concentrations can produce nausea, dizziness, and vomiting. Loss of consciousness can occur at extremely high concentrations.
To prevent or reduce high concentrations of pollutants, especially CO2, in a building or room, fresh air should be supplied to the area (air out your space occasionally). Some pollutants, such as VOCs, PMs & Formaldehyde, may require the identification of harmful building materials, building contents or chemical cleaners & personal care products to be removed from the home or office. Remediation options may include the introduction of air purification systems with HEPA filtering and/or the maintenance of existing HVAC systems, including duct cleaning and other preventive measures to ensure cleaner indoor air.